Bălșan v. Romania  | 2017

Justice for a victim of domestic violence in Romania

…her husband had come home around noon and had started punching her in the face and head and threatened to kill her...

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, May 2017


Angelica Bălșan, a mother of four children, suffered eight assaults at the hands of her husband. She sustained injuries that needed several days of medical care – including bruises on her face, arms, back, thighs and an open facial wound. Angelica’s husband abused her and her children throughout their marriage, with the violence intensifying during divorce proceedings.

Between 2007 and 2008, Angelica made emergency calls, filed criminal complaints and asked the head of the police for protection. However, despite telling the authorities that she feared for her life, no proper measures were taken to protect her. Every time, her husband was either acquitted or the authorities decided not to press charges.

Feeling helpless, Angelica finally took a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the Romanian authorities had been well aware of the abuse, given Angelica’s repeated calls for help. Nevertheless, they had not intervened to protect her – a violation of her basic rights.

The court expressed concerned that the Romanian authorities considered Angelica to have provoked the domestic violence and that it was not serious enough to be criminal behaviour. This was inconsistent with international standards on protecting women from violence. The court also found that Angelica was a victim of discrimination, as the violence was based on her gender.

This case and others showed that, despite adequate laws in Romania to combat domestic violence, the Romanian authorities lacked proper commitment to addressing the problem in practice.

“…the overall unresponsiveness of the judicial system and the impunity enjoyed by aggressors . . . indicated that there was an insufficient commitment to take appropriate action to address domestic violence.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, May 2017


Since these events took place, the Romanian government has taken a wide range of steps to address domestic violence. There have been improvements in the reporting of offences and the number of protection orders granted to protect victims.

In 2016, Romania ratified the Council of Europe’s ‘Istanbul Convention’ on violence against women. In 2018, the government submitted a draft law to parliament containing a series of reforms to further address this issue.

The Council of Europe continues to monitor these legislative reforms, as well as the national strategy to address domestic violence and the practical measures being taken. It has called for further measures to strengthen the criminal justice system’s capacity to respond adequately to domestic violence.